HALLO AND GOODBYE
Jean de Chas* Inaugurates the Beckett Bridge**
Never a one to miss a lack of opportunity, I name it The Unnameable. Not like the L’Inconnu, the body that is unclaimable, or the notional self fished out by Bishop Berkeley. It is more concrete, and has steel in its soul.
Some people say Becket’s middle name, Barclay, was a misspelling by the town clerk. Though it proved prescient. Sam was no stranger to bars all his life, and Joyce’s clay was never far from the surface in his work (1). And a mercy too, as after a youthful flirtation, he shied away from a philosophy where you had to be seen to exist, preferring to linger between nowhere and knowhere, worrying the unspeakable (2).
A lot of dirty water has passed under O’Connell’s Bridge since Beckett wrote ‘Harry Sinclair is slowly taking the form of a garrulous turd’ (3), but he stood by his half-uncle as a character witness in the trial of Oliver St John Gogarty for libellous verses in As I Was Going Down Sackfield Street. Sam was made a laughing stock by the defence lawyer. At thirty-one he finally turned his back on his mother, Dublin and Ireland, in that order.
My poem to launch the bridge has abandoned me (4). So I must content myself with a precipitate (5):
The harp that once
your mother sang.
Play it again, Sam.***
Gardai seek identity of man wearing two plastic rosaries, one blue, one
red, around his neck, and with no dental work, who came to the surface
as the Beckett Bridge was being moved into place. A spokesmen said it
is highly probable that he was 'a knight of the road'.
* An unknown author SB wrote about.
**Across the Liffey somewhere between Talbot and O’Casey bridges. The design is a unilever harp.
*** For when ships pass in the night.
(1) Clay: the soil of Eden until the Fall when it was contaminated by oil. Shakespeare referred to it as ‘the toughe cleyes of Babilon called bitumen’. It was used as mortar in building the Tower of Babel, which is why it was popularly nicknamed ‘jews’ pitch’. The French phrase ‘mordre le bitume’ does not translate into ‘biting the dust’. ‘Sur le bitume’ is the French for being on skid row. Or a blackout.
(2) See SB’s translation of Rimbaud’s Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat).
(3) Letters, 9 May 1931.
It could be worstward ho, when all’s considered.
But there’s no ‘under it’ for down-and-outs,
save the blotches of doomed yellow in the pit (6)
going with the flow of traffic into
the snot green sea (7). Vagrants must lean over
without being sorely tempted to jump off.
When the Liffey winds are favourable
the mortifying chains of Matt Talbot
rattle their corsetry downstream. Upwards, still,
Sean O’Casey’s cock-a-doodle-dandy
first thing in the morning could well give cause
to temperamental incontinence (8).
But as the body’s span swings itself up,
and the long arm two-fingers the harp strings
you’re passing a remark (9), ‘Open, c’est Sam.’
(5) SB wanted the title of the title of Echo Bones changed from
Echo Bones and Other Poems to Other Precipitates (‘C’est plus modeste’, he told the publisher Reavey).
(6) From SB’s ‘Enueg
(7) Dublin Bay (from James Joyce’s Ulysses).
(8) Urinary incontinence is when you forget to piss until it’s too late. Temperamental incontinence is when you forget to lose your temper.
(9) From SB’s story, ‘The End’.
The Last Showman
For Kevin Hough
The end of the world is nigh.
That’s difficult to deny.
I’d give it a million years.
That’s a lot of blood and tears,
and, no doubt, some crumbs of love.
But Kevin Hough’s had enough.
Who is left to fill the shoes
of showbiz kings like Jack Cruise,
Noel Purcell, James N. Healy,
Josef Locke, the Derry Gigli?
There’s no one I can think of,
now Kevin Hough’s had enough.
The end of an era’s cause
for nostalgia, gives pause
to remember that the past
in its entirety must last
on the great Bill Board Above
for eternity. Kevin Hough
has had enough, but the light
of his star on Gala night
keeps coming long after he
added spice to Variety.
It doesn’t just depend on us.
So sparkle still, Kevin Hough.
Dear Clement Freud of the mellow wit,
you lost your well-tempered clavichord
when a state school joker slogged a quince
from your garden by climbing the gate.
And you behaved like a total shit.
Squad cars don’t come of their own accord
to rough up a scruff, who didn’t flinch
in court in front of the magistrate.
‘I’ve never seen such a fruit like it,
except it’s fat, fucken owner, m’lord.’
The law came down hard. And a spiked fence
went up. No more opening the school fête.